The following post was written by Alanna McGinn, Certified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site.
More and more often I’m hearing from parents of 8-12 year olds who are suddenly struggling with sleep. When your child doesn’t get enough sleep, their performance in school suffers. Signs of sleep deprivation in children can include hyperactivity, inattention, and behavioural problems – all of which make it harder for them to learn in the classroom.
Why does this happen?
There are a few reasons that older, school-age children have trouble sleeping.
- The first is that their body is changing. As kids approach puberty, there is a natural shift in their circadian rhythms that results in the sleep hormone, melatonin, being secreted later at night.
- Another common culprit is overscheduling – between homework, extracurricular activities, and family events, it’s not unusual for kids to be getting home hours after they should have been in bed.
- Technology in the bedroom is another sleep-thief as the blue wave light emitted by devices has been proven to delay the release of melatonin and interfere with normal sleep rhythms.
- Finally, age 8-12 is a prime time for anxiety and fears to manifest.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to help your growing child get the sleep they need to be successful both in school and life in general.
- Routine - You probably had a bedtime routine when your child was younger, and just because they no longer need a story read to them or help with their PJ’s doesn’t mean that they don’t need a consistent bedtime and a consistent wake time.
- Turn off the Tech - It is recommended that all electronic devices be turned off an hour before bedtime, in order to minimize the disruption technology can bring to the sleep cycle.
- Make sure your child understands the importance of sleep and why they need to get enough - Explain the role that sleep plays in things such as learning, development, and growth to your child using age-appropriate language to help get them on board with the program.
- Teach and model relaxation techniques to your child to help combat anxieties and fears - Some of my favourite strategies include:
- Colouring – Sit down at the kitchen table and have a family colouring party before bed.
- Journaling – It can be hard for kids to say what is bothering them out loud. By creating a shared journal where your child can write down their fears and worries knowing you will read them and respond can take some of the pressure off and create a bridge to communication that will ease both your minds.
By making sleep a priority, you can help your child develop healthy sleep habits that will serve them well throughout their life and improve their learning.
Kumon not only helps children strengthen their math and reading skills, it also helps them build healthy routines in and out of school. Find out more by scheduling a parent orientation session!